Boris Eifman founded his own company in 1977, breaking with the strict rules of Russian academism and asserting his fierce independence. He developed his own style for audiences who love both classical and contemporary dance, resisting the trends and instead opting for his own very personal form of expression. He describes his creative composition this way: “Everything is in the esthetics, but the formal beauty of gesture is not an end in itself. This doesn’t mean that the physical quality of choreography is any less important than finding a certain dramatic intensity in given situations. I simply believe that we can’t comprehend beauty as an abstract notion. When I create a movement, it’s of course based on the idea of conveying an emotion, expressing a feeling, but this emotion is necessarily translated through the strictures of esthetics.”
The choreographer, an inspired and passionate artist, is visibly determined to pursue his quest for perfection. Having battled for many years against the rigidity of the Soviet system, he is nonetheless quite conscious of the place he holds today as a creator in his home country. Eifman Ballet Theatre employs some 60 dancers and recently acquired its own choreography centre, financed by the Russian government and the City of St. Petersburg. It is the only company in Russia to stage one to two productions a year, in spite of Russia’s continuing difficulties. In an illustration of his creative force, Eifman says: “It is true that for me, creation signifies life and liberty.” Since 1990, Eifman Ballet Theatre has toured frequently in Germany, Israel, Poland, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, France, Turkey and Holland. Its reputation, particularly in the United States, has only grown as each new creation premières.
Since 1997, Eifman has presented his creation Red Giselle in St. Petersburg. The ballet tells the story of celebrated Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva. For the first time in October 1997, Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow opened its doors to him. There, he staged his three most recent works: Tchaikovsky, Red Giselle and Russian Hamlet, the latter which traces the life of Czar Paul I. Their success was a veritable triumph. The Russian media hailed Eifman as the only choreographer able to galvanize Russian dance out of its inertia and pronounced the troupe one of the country’s best. In February 2000, the Bolshoi acquired Russian Hamlet for its repertoire.
In April 1998, Eifman was invited to New York City Center, where he presented Red Giselle. It was a smash hit: NYCC invited him to return the following season for two weeks (January 1999) with four different programs. He became a regular, and was again invited to take part in a U.S. tour in March and April 2002.
In early July 2001, Bolshoi Theatre presented, for the first time, a retrospective of Eifman’s ballets, and Don Juan and Molière was presented at Mariinsky Theatre (the former Kirov) in St. Petersburg. Throughout the 2001-2002 season, the company toured Israel, Lyon (France), Spain, Korea and the United States. In 2002, Eifman celebrated the 25th anniversary of his troupe’s founding, presenting a number of works at the Mariinsky. In 2003, the company performed among others on the prestigious stages of Paris and London. In June 2004, Eifman was invited by New York City Ballet to create a homage to choreographer George Balanchine, titled Musagete. That same year, he took the company to Italy, China, France, Eastern Europe, Spain, Poland and Israel.
The show Anna Karenina, which premièred in April 2005, was presented in Europe in 2006. His creation The Seagull, freely inspired by Anton Chekhov’s work, performed in St. Petersburg in January 2007 and toured the United States in March and April of that year.
For the 2008-2009 season, Eifman Ballet Theatre is touring Spain, Holland, France, Italy, Israel, Greece, Canada, Finland, China and the U.S. The world première of his next creation, Eugene Onegin, inspired by the work of Alexander Pushkin, will take place in St. Petersburg in March 2009.
In recognition of his impressive career, Eifman was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1999.